The upper dentition and relationships of the enigmatic Australian Cretaceous mammal Kollikodon ritchiei
Pian et al
Mesozoic mammals from Australia are rare, so far only known from the Early Cretaceous, and most are poorly represented in terms of dentitions much less cranial material. No upper molars of any have been described. Kollikodon ritchiei is perhaps the most bizarre of these, originally described on the basis of a dentary fragment with three molars. Here we describe a second specimen of this extremely rare taxon, one that retains extraordinarily specialised upper cheekteeth (last premolar and all four molars). Each molar supports rows of bladeless, rounded cuspules many of which exhibit apical pits that may be the result of masticating hard items such as shells or chitin. Reanalysis of the phylogenetic position of this taxon suggests, based on a limited number of apparent synapomorphies, that it is an australosphenidan mammal and probably the sister group to Monotremata. This reanalysis also supports the view that within Monotremata, tachyglossids and ornithorhynchids diverged in the early to middle Cenozoic.